Accounting for Alcohol – part 11 “Accounting and wine in Anjou (Maine et Loire) during the 19th century”
This is a brief summary of chapter 10 in our book, written by Valentin Taveau and Béatrice Touchelay. They use the archives of the département of Maine et Loire and the
accounts books of two Maisons de vin, that of René-Jean Goubault-Lambert and that of Jean-Baptiste Ackerman-Laurance. The period covered is between about 1810 and 1870.
As the authors note, the archival records provide an example of accounting practices that were still quite in their infancy and reflect businesses that were not well managed. Indeed in that case of Goubault-Lambert, the authors suggest the account books are a chronicle of a bankruptcy foretold. The main book of account for was the Grand livre which recorded the transactions between the business and partners/customers and was classified by account type – similar to a general ledger today. The authors note little in the way of summary or analysis, and also not several periods throughout the financial years when days or weeks of time seem to be omitted. In the case of the Ackerman-Laurance business, the Grand livre is better maintained and more detailed and includes details about production, sales, inventory and payables – although the book dates from the latter half of the century, and be attributable to the business being taken over by the founder’s son. In both cases, it is interesting to note that the Grand livre captures personal/family transactions also. This is similar to many earlier books of account, where the business and family/owners were not separated as per the present day entity concept.
I read a nice article in the Financial Times recently on the cost of buying a vineyard. The article is investment focused, but mentions that given costs of production, wine prices and annual sales in bottles, the investment will breakeven in a few years – meaning the investment is recouped. If you have studied management accounting, you’ll be aware this not breakeven in the way you many have learned it – fixed cost/contribution per unit. It is not very different though. In essence, the investment is regarded as a fixed cost, with the contribution per unit being the annual contribution which can be made from sales of wine in a year. It’s not a perfect measure, but a good enough rule of thumb to help make an investment decision.