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Chris Orffer and student
C J Orffer
1926 - 2008
Professor of Viticulture and Oenology, Stellenbosch University, 1963 - 1986

Christiaan Johannes Orffer was born on 2 June 1926, on a farm on the Bergriver opposite 24 Rivers in the district of Riebeek-West. He attended a primary farm school, the Moorreesburg High School and studied at Stellenbosch University, 1944 - 1947 (BSc Agric in Chemistry III and Viti-viniculture III (Wynbou).
In 1948 he began to work as a research assistant at the Table Grape Department of the Western Province Research Station at Stellenbosch and, from 1949, research and lecturing assistant at the Stellenbosch-Elsenburg College of Agriculture of Stellenbosch University (MSc Agric on studies on the grafting of established vines). He initiated the amphi-grafting technique, which for the first time guaranteed an almost 100% take.
In 1954 he enrolled at the University of California for a PhD degree (1956). He suggested a staple grafting technique. He also undertook a study tour to grape growing regions of vineyards, cellars, research institutes and universities in Western Europe. Chris Orffer was professor at Stellenbosch University in Viti-viniculture (Wynbou) from 1963 -1967 and 1967 - 1968 in Vitilogy (Wingerdkunde). He was a founder member (1957) of the South African Society for Oenology and Viticulture (SASEV). Member of triumvirate in 1957 - 1962 of Viticultural Oenological Research Institute (VORI) responsible for the selection of the experimental farm Nietvoorbij and the planning for research facilities. Member of triumvirate in 1965 with the objective of undertaking a three-month study tour of grape varieties and their wines in Europe, Greece, California and Australia. Amongst various proposals, the Chardonnay cultivar was especially recommended. In 1967 he suggested a division of the department of Viti-viniculture (Wynbou) into two departments viz. department of Vitilogy (Wingerdkunde) and the department of Oenology (Wynkunde) with a separate chair, staff and facilities for the latter. During 1976 various overseas research centres were visited regarding grapevine diseases caused by viruses.
Chris Orffer acted as assessor for the Commission of Inquiry into the cultivar purity and illegal importation of certain vine propagating material in 1985. He was involved in grapevine breeding and responsible for the introduction of several new vinifera cultivars viz. Chenel, Weldra, Therona, Grachen, Nouvelle and Roobernet and new rootstock cultivars viz. US 2 - 1, US 8 - 7, US 17, US 21, US 24, US 26 and US 41. In collaboration with Dougie Jooste (owner), Ernst Le Roux (vitilogist) and Ross Gower (winemaker), Chris Orffer helped with the successful rénaissance of the once legendary world famous Constantia wine - in present day - Vin de Constance of Klein Constantia.
He was holder of a patent on a dripper devise for drip-irrigation of ornamentals, vegetables and fruit trees. From 1969 to 1992 he was part-time farmer, practising mixed farming - sheep, cattle and viticulture. Later he did research on small scale organic growing of vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, grapevines and the making of organic wine.
Chris Orffer was married to Winnifred Walters and they had four daughters and a son. Winnifred passed away in 1993. He married Jeanette and lived in Moorreesburg.
Chris Orffer died in 2008.


Numerous articles in journals and contributions to local viti-viniculture.
The Successful Identification of Grapevine Rootstock varieties, Pro-Ecclesia Drukkery Beperk, 1966
Chapters 4, 5 and 6 in: D J Opperman, Spirit of the Vine (Afrikaans edition: Gees van die Wingerd), Human & Rousseau, 1968
Wine Grape cultivars in South Africa (Afrikaans edition: Wyndruif Kultivars in Suid-Afrika) (Editor), Human & Rousseau, 1979

Photo: Chris Orffer and Student, Victoria Honey (photo "die Wynboer")

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