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Yet, apart from those visiting General de Gaulle's graveside at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, few discover the 6,000 hectares of Bar sur Aube and Bar sur Seine vineyards.Strangely, it used to be Gamay country (planted with the Beaujolais grape which does not make promising fizz), but luckily these were uprooted some time ago and now 85 per cent of the vineyard area is planted with Pinot Noir.In July, the Liv-ex 100 Index was down 1.3 percent after a record 15 months with no declines, causing many a melodramatic commentator to forecast potential doom and gloom for the fine-wine market.

The fall season has shown a return to activity postsummer, with Liv-ex's exchange turnover rising by 37 percent in September, and demand remains strong in the run-up to Christmas, not least from Asia.The three main areas of the Champagne region are Montagne de Reims, Valle de la Marne and the beautiful Cte des Blancs - all well explored by tourists.Few know about (or travel to) the other little-known areas within the famous Champagne appellation: Cte de Szanne and the Aube.Acker Merrall & Condit, merchants since 1820, began auctioneering in 1998.Both companies' auction divisions have taken the Hong Kong scene by storm over the past two years, and now Acker has expanded into the city's retail space, as well as extending its online-only auctions to Hong Kong in October to complement its lavish saleroom affairs.Sotheby's joins the ranks of some of the longest-established wine sellers in the United States, where the tradition of joint activity in both auctions and retail is embedded.

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