For $8.2 Million, a Palace-Turned-Wine Estate in the North of Portugal
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For $8.2 Million, a Palace-Turned-Wine Estate in the North of Portugal

Located in the Vinho Verde wine region, the 23,700-square-foot Villa Beatriz has been in the same family since the early 1900s. Now the home is looking for a new steward

By J.S MARCUS
Fri, Jan 19, 2024 8:38amGrey Clock 4 min

In the early 1870s, Francisco Antunes de Oliveira Guimarães, a teenager from a rural corner of northern Portugal, made his way to Brazil. By century’s end he was a wealthy financier, and in the early years of the new century, he completed a palatial, three-story manor house for himself and his new bride, Beatriz, in the heart of Portugal’s Vinho Verde wine region. The nearly 100-acre property, reinvented in the 1990s as a thriving wine estate, has been the family seat ever since.

The property, with the main home’s original furniture and decorations largely intact, is now set to pass out of the family for the first time. The estate is on the market for roughly $8.2 million, a price that includes original hand-carved furniture fashioned from exotic tropical hardwood, according to Francisco’s granddaughter, Carmen Guimarães, 90, who has lived on the property since the early 1990s. Known as Villa Beatriz, in honour of Francisco’s bride, the 23,700-square-foot home has 13 bedrooms and eight bathrooms. With a number of outbuildings, it has over an acre of formal gardens decorated with classical statuary. The gardens, like the house itself, have been designated a historic landmark.

Carmen is selling the property along with her two daughters, Anabela Guimarães, 70, and Alexandra Guimarães, 67. Carmen says Francisco, born into a family of modest local landowners, was a Rio de Janeiro financial tycoon who started out selling lottery tickets and ended up founding a large bank. Still, he remained rooted in the area around the Ave River, which runs through the estate.

Built in an opulent Belle Époque-style, Villa Beatriz is a fusion of Brazilian materials and Portuguese craftsmanship. Rooms are presided over by intricate stucco ceilings. Atmospheric wall paintings, featuring everything from hunting scenes to tributes to Portugal’s Age of Exploration, decorate the walls of the main floor’s reception rooms and the bedrooms on the second floor. Even the onetime staff rooms, on the top floor, still have elaborate antique beds made from cherry wood.

Villa Beatriz is an imaginative blending of historical styles, says Tobias Hoffmann, director of Berlin’s Bröhan Museum, known for its collection of modern European decorative arts. The neo-Moorish tiled facade—which can be the same shade of blue as the Minho sky—gives way to a fanciful entrance hall decorated with neo-Renaissance trompe-l’oeil wall paintings. The formal dining room is a freewheeling mix of both Moorish and Renaissance touches, he says, while second-floor bedrooms have a neo-Rococo flair.

Camille Bressange/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The estate has had its share of sorrows. Beatriz, Francisco’s wife, died before she could ever see the house he built for her. A generation later, Carmen, who never really knew her grandfather, moved there at age 12 to live with her aunt and uncle after both her parents died within a matter of months. A widow herself since 2010, Carmen is still active, and has more recently overseen the maintenance and restoration of the house on her own. “It looks exactly the same as it did when I was growing up,” she says.

The estate is located east of the city of Braga in the Vinho Verde region, which is known for its light, slightly fizzy, affordable whites. The Guimarães family had long produced wine for private consumption, but starting in the early 1990s Carmen and her late husband, textile manufacturer Carlos Alberto Rodrigues Guimarães, launched a modern commercial winemaking facility. They named their flagship wine Quinta Villa Beatriz, after the estate, and put the house itself on the label. Spread across 30 acres, the vines grow classic Vinho Verde white grape varieties, including Loureiro and Trajadura.

Though things have stayed pretty much the same at Villa Beatriz, the Vinho Verde region is undergoing its own reinvention, says José Ferreira, a sommelier at Lisbon’s Michelin-starred Belcanto restaurant. “Some great wines are starting to be produced there,” he says, citing a new wave of winemakers who are replacing traditional varieties with Alvarinho, a premium white grape that does well on either side of the Spanish-Portuguese border.

The prices of wine estates in Vinho Verde are increasing dramatically, but can still be far less than those of the adjacent Douro Valley, which produces Portugal’s most expensive wines, says Artur Pinto Leite, a senior consultant at the Porto office of Savills, who specializes in wine estates. Top Douro Valley wine estates can fetch prices in excess of $109,000 per hectare, he says—a level that can only be reached in Vinho Verde if Alvarinho has already been planted. The price of luxury homes in the two regions can vary dramatically, adds Pinto Leite, depending on ocean access in the case of Vinho Verde, and river proximity in the Douro areas.

Carmen and her daughters aren’t especially big wine drinkers, they say. But Anabela, who raised her own family not far away, can sound wistful while giving a tour of the winery her father built. Now a grandmother herself, the retired textile-company executive likes to recall that she was married in the manor house, as were her children. “My heart is here,” she says, of the property.

Her mother, however, is looking forward to the next chapter. Still managing daily trips up and down her imposing staircase, she is thrilled at the thought of moving to a home with only one story—and a fraction of the upkeep. And when it comes to wine, she has a confession to make: “I prefer a glass of Port.”

Ruy Nogueira of Luximos/Christie’s International Real Estate is handling the sale.



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Hong Kong Takes Drastic Action to Avert Property Slump

The city’s real-estate market has been hurt by high interest rates and mainland China’s economic slowdown

By ELAINE YU
Fri, Mar 1, 2024 3 min

Hong Kong has taken a bold step to ease a real-estate slump, scrapping a series of property taxes in an effort to turn around a market that is often seen as a proxy for the city’s beleaguered economy.

The government has removed longstanding property taxes that were imposed on nonpermanent residents, those buying a second home, or people reselling a property within two years after buying, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said in his annual budget speech on Wednesday.

The move is an attempt to revive a property market that is still one of the most expensive in the world, but that has been badly shaken by social unrest, the fallout of the government’s strict approach to containing Covid-19 and the slowdown of China’s economy . Hong Kong’s high interest rates, which track U.S. rates due to its currency peg,  have increased the pressure .

The decision to ease the tax burden could encourage more buying from people in mainland China, who have been a driving force in Hong Kong’s property market for years. Chinese tycoons, squeezed by problems at home, have  in some cases become forced sellers  of Hong Kong real estate—dealing major damage to the luxury segment.

Hong Kong’s super luxury homes  have lost more than a quarter of their value  since the middle of 2022.

The additional taxes were introduced in a series of announcements starting in 2010, when the government was focused on cooling down soaring home prices that had made Hong Kong one of the world’s least affordable property markets. They are all in the form of stamp duty, a tax imposed on property sales.

“The relevant measures are no longer necessary amidst the current economic and market conditions,” Chan said.

The tax cuts will lead to more buying and support prices in the coming months, said Eddie Kwok, senior director of valuation and advisory services at CBRE Hong Kong, a property consultant. But in the longer term, the market will remain sensitive to the level of interest rates and developers may still need to lower their prices to attract demand thanks to a stockpile of new homes, he said.

Hong Kong’s authorities had already relaxed rules last year to help revive the market, allowing home buyers to pay less upfront when buying certain properties, and cutting by half the taxes for those buying a second property and for home purchases by foreigners. By the end of 2023, the price index for private homes reached a seven-year low, according to Hong Kong’s Rating and Valuation Department.

The city’s monetary authority relaxed mortgage rules further on Wednesday, allowing potential buyers to borrow more for homes valued at around $4 million.

The shares of Hong Kong’s property developers jumped after the announcement, defying a selloff in the wider market. New World Development , Sun Hung Kai Properties and Henderson Land Development were higher in afternoon trading, clawing back some of their losses from a slide in their stock prices this year.

The city’s budget deficit will widen to about $13 billion in the coming fiscal year, which starts on April 1. That is larger than expected, Chan said. Revenues from land sales and leases, an important source of government income, will fall to about $2.5 billion, about $8.4 billion lower than the original estimate and far lower than the previous year, according to Chan.

The sweeping property measures are part of broader plans by Hong Kong’s government to prop up the city amid competition from Singapore and elsewhere. Stringent pandemic controls and anxieties about Beijing’s political crackdown led to  an exodus of local residents and foreigners  from the Asian financial centre.

But tens of thousands of Chinese nationals have arrived in the past year, the result of Hong Kong  rolling out new visa rules aimed at luring talent in 2022.

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