The global market for premium wines is increasingly being cornered by wealthy connoisseurs in Hong Kong, who are buying up stocks and driving up prices of top vintages. Nick Pegna, managing director of wine dealers Berry Brothers & Rudd, said buying interest and sales of premium wines in Hong Kong had been very strong in the past two to three months. A handful of individuals are spending plenty and cornering the market for top 1996, 2000, 2003 and 2005 vintages, which have seen prices rise over the past 18 months. Since the end of April, prices have shot up by an average of 25 per cent. A case of Chateau Lafite 2005, which was priced at about GBP4,500 (HK$70,700) two months ago, now sells for about GBP7,000, a 55 per cent increase. Limited quantities and popular vintages mean prices can move a lot, and quickly, when large orders - 100 cases or more - are placed. 'I would prefer that it slows down. It's hard to work in an environment like this,' Mr Pegna said. Between 25 per cent and 30 per cent of his company's business comes from Hong Kong. The city has a handful of high-profile wine collectors, most notably new Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen and property tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung. But Mr Pegna said much of the wine spending spree was a result of the mainland's economic success spilling over to Hong Kong, which was driving the world market for fine wines. He believed collectors were stocking up on vintages because they enjoyed drinking the wine but also were aware of the effect their purchases had on the price. It had less to do with a recent cut in Hong Kong's wine duty from 80 per cent to 40 per cent, he said. The fact that people were drinking wine showed collectors were not just stocking up to speculate on it as a commodity or investment. 'At the end of the day, you have to see people drinking wine. If it was just a lot of hoarding, then there would be a risk of a bubble,' Mr Pegna said.