Irish investors are turning to the drink but not to get drunk in this case.

They are increasingly investing in the fine wine  market according to a leading wine merchant

Northern Ireland-based James Nicholson, which offers a number of services through website, says  its investor customers have got an  annual return of about 23% for their wine portfolios.

'The economic downturn, particularly poor returns from the stock market and property, has prompted people to look elsewhere and wine is attracting increasing attention as a commodity which can be expected to rise in value,' said  Nicholson.

'Wine has performed well in recent years and, despite experiencing a correction in late 2008, it has shown good growth since then, with many wines showing better returns now than before.'

Some of his company's customers had doubled their initial investment in two years he says  but he stressed that that the level of return dictated by the quality of the vintage and the demand for specific wines.

'With banks offering low interest rates on savings and uncertainty in the world markets, people are seeking out alternative places to put their money,' he added.