”I have always loved the ambience around wine, ever since I was a child. Up to the ago of 30 I studied art, classical music and acting, but in the end I realised I was not reading scripts to the extent I should have – I read wine books!”
Max, or Maximilian Mellfors, set out for a career as an actor but often found himself among the aisles at Systembolaget and realised he didn’t have the energy to pursue the actor dream anymore.
He discovered French food and wine culture through the family of a former girlfriend and was instantly and completely hooked. On his trips to France he bagged a few visits to producers by telling them he was writing a book about wine and he learned the ropes by trail and error.
”Luckily, I found a much more experienced person who became my mentor in the beginning. He took me to trade tastings and told me what to buy and drink. This was wine on the more natural side of the scale, which I was completely open for since I have always been interested in the environment and of course the artistic approach to winemaking that these wines stood for.”
Parallel to this Max started to work at Terrenos Vinotek where he learned quickly and also got to meet and learn from more interesting wine people. He moved on in the restaurant business, and after a few months at Le Rouge he started working with Peter Bennysson at the wine bar 19 Glas. This was the main springboard for his interest in natural wines.
”Soon, I wanted to have my own wine program and I got the chance from Niklas Ekstedt, who was looking for a new sommelier for his restaurant Ekstedt. I worked there for almost five years and now we have just opened Tyge & Sessil together.”
The wine café Tyge & Sessil opened up in December but now I’m here for the first time, seated at the end of the large table just in front of the wine fridge, browsing the wine list and menu, reading a few small texts about the selection and about natural wine and its history. There’s such a great vibe, and the lack of a conventional bar counter makes the space open, and you feel connected to the staff running around the floor with glasses and bottles. Max is approaching my seat and we chat away about the selection and the setting. It’s easy to get a good vibe from Tyge & Sessil, one feels very welcome and the staff knows their trade, even around the floor it seems, though they’ve just been open for a fortnight.
What a nice place you have opened up! what was the starting point for this idea?
Thank you! When Niklas (Ekstedt) and I compared experiences after traveling and after vacation and so on, we realised we usually liked the same places, and we wanted to create something like that in Stockholm.
You have been working alongside Niklas for some time now, what makes you a great team?
Niklas is the perfect restaurateur. He has a vision and part of that is giving other people a chance to fulfill theirs. I have a vision and he gives me the opportunity to fulfill it.
What were the main criteria when building the team of sommeliers, chefs and staff for Tyge & Sessil?
Since we have a quite outspoken wine philosophy, it’s important that everyone understands that and it should basically be in their hearts too. You have to see the sparkle in the eye from the staff. It’s a question of sincerity, it might sound extremely pretentious but I believe it’s important.
Speaking of the name, where does it come from?
Many threads led up to this. To narrow it down we decided it should be a double name. I wanted it to be a name that could not be placed in a wine-cultural context. You should not be able to tell by the name what kind of experience you will have at Tyge & Sessil, what wines to drink there and so on. Tyge & Sessil are two of Tycho Brahe’s children and we are located on Brahegatan. Now, it’s actually another Brahe who gave the name to the street, so the connection is not logical but it sounded cool!
I interviewed your other sommelier, Emil (Thunström), for this column before when he was working at Oaxen. Do you guys work together on the wine list?
We are working extremely closely together, and it’s the best partnership I could wish for! I have the responsibility in the end but since we know now that we like the same things it’s easy to work.
As well as a focus on natural wines, you also look for wines from outside the ”old world”. What surprises can we expect to find on your wine list?
That Australian wines taste the way they do nowadays surprises people. Even more so all the beautiful wines from Hungary, Slovenia and even Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
What is it about natural wine that intrigues you?
I guess I like the ‘underdog’ perspective. To me, it’s the romantic way of making wine. It’s close to the core of wine. I love the idea of the search for an ideal.
With the delivery of assorted little dishes to accompany my selection of glasses, I’m delighted by a plate of plain boquerones, some bread and butter and a wonderful, just wonderful tartar with pickled turnip and mustard. Emil has snuck in during our conversation and pours me a few samples with some of the their best drops, Bressan Verduzzo, Close du Tue-Boef from Magnum, Collecapretta and L’ange Vin Nocturne from Robinot. I’m pretty spoiled at this point, to say the least.
The menu is small yet extremely intriguing, simple yet very tasty dishes. Any words on the food?
Fatty, salty and acidic. Everything that makes wine taste even better. There are no flavours hostile to the wine.
When choosing wine for your own pleasure, what’s usually in your glass and is it mostly paired with food, or do you simply just gulp away sometimes too?
Drinkability is important but is also quite subjective. Let’s just say I usually prefer 12% alc. to 14,5%. One of my pleasures is discovering new wines and of course I pair food and wine, but that goes without saying
Your wife is a sommelier too right? Who picks the wines at home?
My wife Anna, who has been in the business much longer than I, has taught me so much by pulling corks and just being my drinking partner. Now we usually let our daughter, who is named after a grape, choose wine by letting her hover over the shelves!
Which three wines, by the glass should no one miss when visiting Tyge & Sessil?
Right now I would name Jean Foillard Cote du Py. If you haven’t had it, this can be your door to the natural wine world. Domaine Huards Romorantin – Romorantin is a grape variety that could be an escape from having to say ‘I’d like a glass of Chablis’. And Domaine Lucci Pet Nat Blanc de Blancs to rediscover Australia! However, our wine list changes a lot so there might be other wines by the glass available next time.
Image and words: Pär Strömberg