Producer Profiles

In Slovenia, "The Tree Needs to Look Beautiful."

"A vine is like a lover," Miha Jakovcic says. "If you neglect it, even a little, it won’t forgive you. An olive tree, however, is like a mother. You can always come back to her,"

Miha Jakovcic pruning at the Giuliana estate (Photos by Pablo Esparza for Olive Oil Times)
Apr. 23, 2019
By Pablo Esparza
Miha Jakovcic pruning at the Giuliana estate (Photos by Pablo Esparza for Olive Oil Times)

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There was a time when a squir­rel could travel from Koper to Por­toroz jump­ing from one olive tree to another,” Miha Jakov­cic recalls nonno” Gio­vanni, his wife’s grand­fa­ther say­ing, as he looks at the mag­nif­i­cent vis­tas from one of his olive groves in the hills of the Sloven­ian coast.

My wife’s father says that prun­ing is not just a mat­ter of cut­ting the right branches. The tree needs to look beau­ti­ful as well.- Miha Jakov­cic, Giu­liana

Most of the slopes are now cov­ered by forests. Some olive groves scat­tered here and there.

That would be impos­si­ble nowa­days, but if you look care­fully, you can still dis­tin­guish the ancient ter­races where olive trees used to grow beneath the oaks,” he says.





He comes from the same coun­try, but until that moment, his rela­tion­ship with olive oil had been a dis­tant one.

Despite being a rel­a­tively small coun­try — its area of 23,000 square kilo­me­ters roughly equals that of New Jer­sey — Slove­nia boasts a large diver­sity of cli­mates, land­scapes and cul­tures.

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Orig­i­nally from Ljubl­jana, Slovenia’s cap­i­tal city, Miha fell in love with olive oil thanks to his wife and her fam­ily and decided to cre­ate Giu­liana olive oil.
It takes just one hour’s drive to switch the Mediter­ranean towns of the coast — with their dis­tinc­tive Venet­ian influ­enced archi­tec­ture — for the Cen­tral Euro­pean fla­vor of Ljubl­jana, fea­tur­ing a rich Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian her­itage.

I con­sumed olive oil, sure, but it was from the gro­cery store. When they showed me how true, very good olive oil should taste and smell, it was a totally dif­fer­ent story for me. And I fell in love with this tree,” Miha says.

Although he works full time in finance and lives in the cap­i­tal, he enjoys get­ting full of energy” after a day of work in his olive groves.

Do you think the branches are even?”, he asks as he climbs one of the olive trees to bet­ter prune it. My wife’s father says that prun­ing is not just a mat­ter of cut­ting the right branches. The tree needs to look beau­ti­ful as well,” he sug­gests.

Farm­ing as a hobby or a sec­ond job, Miha’s case is not much dif­fer­ent from other olive oil pro­duc­ers Olive Oil Times has vis­ited in Sloven­ian Istria.

In this region, most pro­duc­ers own small, often dis­perse, prop­er­ties spread on the steep slopes of the hills. For years, olive oil was pro­duced only for self-con­sump­tion. That was also the case of Miha’s fam­ily until recently.

Now, he takes care of the land of his wife’s par­ents, four plots of land from Koper to Por­toroz, and has man­aged to add the pro­duc­tion of three other rel­a­tives under Giuliana’s brand, named after his wife’s mother.

They farm around 800 olive trees in total. Step by step, Miha says, oil pro­duc­tion is recov­er­ing in Slove­nia and many of the once-aban­doned ter­races and olive groves are being brought back to pro­duc­tion.

There is a say­ing in this area: A vine is like a lover. If you neglect it, even a lit­tle, it won’t for­give you. An olive tree, how­ever, is like a mother. You can always come back to her,” he jokes.

Slove­nia has just 46 kilo­me­ters of coast and pro­duces around 400 tons of olive oil each year, accord­ing to the Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil.

This is a small share of the Mediter­ranean pro­duc­tion, how­ever, the qual­ity of Sloven­ian oils are gain­ing steady recog­ni­tion. Last year, three Sloven­ian pro­duc­ers were awarded at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion.

Giuliana’s olive oil won a Gold Award. For Miha, the spe­cial con­di­tions of the Istrian cli­mate and the fact that most of the farm­ing has to be made by hand are keys to qual­ity.

Each plot is unique and needs spe­cial care,” he says, remark­ing how height, humid­ity and expo­sure to winds, low tem­per­a­tures and sun may influ­ence the way olive trees grow and the amount and qual­ity of the har­vest.

We take care of each tree indi­vid­u­ally. We pick the olives mostly by hand and we har­vest very early in Octo­ber. We have to make a trade-off between excel­lent qual­ity and larger quan­tity,” he says.


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