Award-Winning EVOO the Latest Chapter in a Storied Slovenian Family Legacy

The Brataševec family has helped olive groves flourish in western Slovenia once again after the crop nearly disappeared following a 1929 cold snap.

Timon Brataševec prunes his trees
By Paolo DeAndreis
Oct. 28, 2022 12:56 UTC
Timon Brataševec prunes his trees

Known as wine coun­try, the charm­ing hills of Goriška Brda present a unique land­scape on Slovenia’s bor­der with Italy, where olive grow­ing has ancient roots and some of the best extra vir­gin olive oil in the world is being pro­duced.

Looking over the hills that shape this land­scape, you can see a diverse array of scenery from the Adriatic Sea to the Julian Alps,” Timon Brataševec, man­ager of Villa Eva, told Olive Oil Times. The bor­gos [small vil­lages with tra­di­tional archi­tec­ture] remind us of the vil­lages dot­ting south­ern France or Tuscany.”

The har­vest­ing sea­son is cru­cial, as it is the moment when a whole year of work sees the light.- Timon Brataševec, man­ager, Villa Eva

Along with the ter­rain, the area is defined by its his­tory. In the after­math of World War II, the city of Gorizia was divided between Italy and Slovenia.

However, friend­ship and coop­er­a­tion led the divided munic­i­pal­i­ties of Gorizia, Italy, and Nova Gorica, Slovenia, to reunite in a strate­gic part­ner­ship that helped the social and eco­nomic devel­op­ment of the area.

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Villa Eva is among the win­ners of both the 2021 and 2022 edi­tions of the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, the world’s largest olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion. Brataševec and his fam­ily are cur­rently busy with the 2022 olive har­vest.

His award-win­ning olive oil pro­duc­tion rep­re­sents a mag­nif­i­cent come­back. Growers in the area had lost faith in olive farm­ing after the cat­a­strophic win­ter of 1929 when a ‑15 °C cold snap almost wiped out the olive tree pop­u­la­tion.

Over time, farm­ers started to plant other crops, and it took decades for olive farm­ing to once again flour­ish in the area, where world-famous vine­yards now grow.

Brataševec’s groves are some of the far­thest north in the Mediterranean basin, which presents plenty of chal­lenges, espe­cially with the added uncer­tainty of cli­mate change. However, he believes that the northerly loca­tion of the groves also con­tributes to the oil’s fruity aroma.

Brataševec added that the team behind Villa Eva is ded­i­cated to organic pro­duc­tion and the pro­tec­tion of bio­di­ver­sity, which the fam­ily sees as cru­cial for the well-being of their olive groves.


The Brataševec family

In our olive groves, we gave life to envi­ron­men­tally opti­mal con­di­tions for the ideal devel­op­ment of the olive trees,” he said. They are sur­rounded by woods through which a small river flows and where many species of birds and insects inter­act.”

We have found that this eco­log­i­cal niche exerts a cru­cial role in defend­ing our olive trees against the olive fruit fly, olive moth and olive thrips [small insects],” Brataševec added.

Currently, the Brataševec fam­ily is hard at work hand-har­vest­ing their olives, which will con­tinue until the sec­ond half of November.

The whole fam­ily is involved in the farm, from the owner, Vanessa, to the agro-engi­neer Kris, who takes care of olive oil qual­ity, while Miranda and Nedjan are in charge of pro­mo­tion and sales of our prod­ucts,” Brataševec said.

He explained how Villa Eva is an acronym com­ing from his great-grand­mother, Emilia, who sowed the seeds of the fam­ily farm, and her two daugh­ters, Vanda and Adriana.

Their ini­tials are our brand,” he said. In 1920, Emilia opened a food shop sell­ing olive oil and wine. Two years later, she opened the first bak­ery in Goriška Brda.”


Traditional stone buildings at the heart of Villa Eva olive groves

Business was good, and that allowed Emilia to buy two more houses where we cre­ated a touris­tic cen­ter with pool and spa,” Brataševec added. In the stone build­ing, at the heart of the olive grove, we offer olive oil tast­ings.”

Generations of expe­ri­ence have taught the fam­ily that tim­ing is every­thing, espe­cially in olive oil pro­duc­tion.


Harvest tim­ing is cru­cial to obtain the best nutri­tional qual­i­ties and a pleas­ant aroma for the olive oil,” Brataševec said. It took many years of expe­ri­ence in the field to reach the point when one can choose the exact moment to pro­ceed with the har­vest.”

He added that he is sat­is­fied with the amount of olives har­vested so far this year. While many grow­ers in cen­tral and west­ern Europe suf­fered from the worst drought of the past 500 years, Villa Eva’s elec­tron­i­cally-man­aged under­ground irri­ga­tion sys­tem allowed the fam­ily to water their trees at all the right moments.

We expect a very good sea­son,” he said. Drought has taken a toll on many pro­duc­ers, but we man­aged to go through it thanks to an irri­ga­tion sys­tem that reaches all our groves.”


The har­vest­ing sea­son is cru­cial, as it is the moment when a whole year of work sees the light,” Brataševec added. The olives are col­lected in small per­fo­rated can­is­ters which are then sent to the mill for trans­for­ma­tion, just as pro­vided for by the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) pro­to­cols.”

Villa Eva’s olive groves are dom­i­nated by two local cul­ti­vars, Črnica and Drobnica. The fam­ily also planted the Istrska Belica, renowned for its piquant fla­vor, Bianchera, Maurino and Leccino, with the aim of mak­ing dif­fer­ent blends.

Despite the far­m’s sus­tained suc­cess, Brataševec said the fam­ily would not rest on its lau­rels, and new inno­va­tions are on the way.

In the future, we will fur­ther improve our prod­uct so as to sat­isfy even the most exact­ing demands of our clients,” he con­cluded. Next year, we plan to open our own mill, which will shorten the time between har­vest and press­ing of the olives.”

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