The co-operative takes its name from Saint-Verny (also known as Saint-Werner) the 15 year old son of an Alsatian (or, depending on which story one believes, a Palatinate) wine grower who was the victim of a ritual murder by the Jews in 1287. Miracles were said to have happened in the presence of the body of the young martyr. He was canonized in 1431 and became popular during the 17th Century, after his legend had passed through folklore into the Auvergne.
He was adopted as the patron saint of vignerons in 1624 and his image can be seen throughout the Auvergne in the form of a figurine depicting a young, rustic-looking farmer wielding a pruning knife in his right hand with a bousset (a small, barrel containing just a few litres, made by hollowing out a section of root wood from a walnut tree), at his feet. His Sainthood is celebrated every 20th May.
Today, Saint-Verny is the sole co-operative in the Puy-de-Dôme. Originally called Cave des Coteaux it was founded – in 1950 – just outside the village of Veyre-Monton. It would be fair to say that the enterprise has suffered a chequered history, coming close to being dissolved in the late 1980s until it was rescued in 1991 by a 15 million Franc investment from Limagrain, Europe’s largest agricultural seed specialist. More recently, it has become the only known co-operative in France to have been taken over by a private enterprise, whilst still being supplied grapes by its contracted wine farmers.