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Following several fairly static years, the market has also seen more money coming in than at any time since 2000 thanks to rising corporate bonuses in London and New York combined with growing interest from Asian buyers.

Christie’s worldwide sales for 2007 totalled $71.6m (£36m), ahead of Sotheby’s $49.3m (£24.8m). In both cases figures were up on 2006, Christie’s seeing a 22 per cent increase, while Sotheby’s saw a 32 per cent rise.

The majority of Christie’s wine totals came from Europe, which at $44.4m (£22.3m) saw a 45 per cent rise. In all, they staged 29 sales in Europe – in Paris, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Geneva, Amsterdam and their two London rooms at King Street and South Kensington. There were ten sales held in America, split between New York and Los Angeles, bringing an annual total of $27.2m (£13.7m).

Sotheby’s limit wine sales to New York and London. They staged eight wine auctions in New York in 2007, totalling $28.4m (£14.3m) – a 39 per cent increase – and 12 sales in London totalling $20.9m (£10.5m), up 23 per cent on 2006.

The top wine lot of 2007 was at Sotheby’s New York in February, where a jeroboam of 1945 Château Mouton Rothschild from the cellar of Baroness Philippine de Rothschild made a premium-inclusive $310,700 (£155,780). It was the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold at Sotheby’s.

Christie’s top lot of the year was a 12-bottle case of 1961 Hermitage, La Chapelle that sold at London King Street in September for £123,750, setting a new auction record for a case of Rhône wine and for any wine case sold in Europe.

Indicating an increasingly significant factor in the market, Sotheby’s breakdown of their London figures showed that half of all the wine sold went to Asian private buyers in terms of value, or 39 per cent in terms of lots.

Indeed, market analysts are predicting that Asian and Russian buying is likely to become increasingly important, especially if the wine market is affected by falling returns owing to recession fears.

£1=$1.99

Alex Capon