Auction house Sotheby's has said it plans to hold regular fine wine auctions in Asia, beginning with Hong Kong, reflecting the region's growing thirst for top wines.

Sotheby's announced its expansion plan for Asia today (20 January) at the same time as revealing it will hold a fine wine auction in Hong Kong on 4 April.

The event will follow a sister auction in New York on 14 March. A combined sales total of US$5m is expected for the 9,000-bottle private collection, although it is thought Hong Kong will generate a greater return.

Hong Kong, which is nestled next to the emerging Chinese market, has positioned itself as the wine trading hub of Asia since scrapping duty tax on wine last year.

Patti Wong, chairman of Sotheby's Asia, said: "Sotheby's wine auctions in New York and London have long been enthusiastically followed and supported by collectors from Asia. Asian wine collectors have now clearly emerged as a significant force injecting great energy and vitality into the global fine wine market."

Fine wine prices slid against a tough economic climate in 2008.

Sotheby's rival Christie's said in December that global fine wine sales for 2008 totalled US$50.7m (EUR41m), still the third highest figure on record but lower than sales of nearly $72m (EUR53m) in 2007.

Asia continues to generate excitement, however. Christie's held its first wine auction in Hong Kong for seven years in 2008, while the world's largest wine exhibition, Vinexpo, has announced it will return to Hong Kong in 2010.