She was previously the co-winemaker with the McLaren Vale producer.
Meanwhile Oliver Reschke has been appointed curator of customer experiences across the Inkwell, DubStyle and Hotel California Road portfolio.
“Considering the impact Irina has made in just 12 years at Inkwell specifically, and in the Australian wine industry generally, this move is overdue,” Inkwell founder Dudley Brown says.
“For a female, immigrant, person of color working in a second language who has accomplished so much, she is the future for our business.”
Irina arrived in Australia in 2009 with high level experience in government in Bahia, Brazil, with multiple degrees in the Arts but no science background.
Despite this, and working in a second language, she completed a MSc in Viticulture at the University of Adelaide and received the prestigious University of Adelaide Graduate Research Scholarship and full funding from Wine Australia to pursue and complete the first PhD in Sustainability in Viticulture in the world in 2014.
She received the highest award from the university for her thesis.
As part of that, she developed the Sustainable Australia Winegrowing (SAW) system for McLaren Vale which has been adapted into the national sustainability system for Australia.
Irina Santiago-Brown (Photo credit: Jaimie Sellar).
Irina was recognised by the Australian Women in Wine as the Inaugural Viticulturist of the Year in 2015 and was published in JancisRobinson.com in 2020.
While working on her PhD, she also worked vintages at Inkwell beginning in 2011.
The first wine she made, the 120 litre 2011 Late Harvest Fortified Zinfandel, was received by critics with the highest scores realised by Inkwell until then.
She subsequently made Inkwell’s first extended contact white wine, their first preservative free wine in a can as well as three new fortified wines, among other innovations.
In 2020, she developed and successfully commercialised the Cellar Chimp mobile software app for managing wine production from grape receival to bottling planning.
Dudley says that Oliver is a strategic long-term addition to the team.
“Building small brands of value today means relentless focus on how that brand is experienced by every customer, whether in person or virtually,” he says.
“Oliver brings a wealth of customer facing experience curation as well as an academic background in marketing.
“At just 26, he is the next step in our evolution.”
Dudley says that he had started Inkwell in 2003 to “be the change.”
“When I asked a famous MW what their view of the Australian wine industry was a few years back, she said ‘male, pale and stale’,” he says.
“Despite making me laugh, I’ve come to realise that many of us need to make way for a more diverse, creative and interesting future to occur.”
Dudley says he will have more time for his first loves, being Irina’s PA, forklift driving and “writing about contradictions in the Australian wine industry” on his blog, TheWineRules.