This discussion is very timely for me, as I am just getting "into" Southern heirloom apples.
From reading all the old Southern heirloom apple descriptions, it seems like taste was a consideration, but usually not the primary one. Storage, ease of growing, utility (I.e could it be used for many purposes?) sound like they were just as Important.
For example, that old Southern standard, Horse. It sounds like the kind of Apple I would love to have if I were on a farm, trying to be as self-sufficient as possible. It makes vinegar, it makes cider, you can bake with it, make sauce with it, use it for fried apples, and also use it for fresh eating. Maybe it's not outstanding at all those things, but it's decent at all of them, and as a self-sufficient farmer, this apple would probably be one of the first I'd plant.
For what I am though, a backyard grower with ambitions to perhaps one day have a roadside fruit stand, it would probably be-maybe not "bad"-but certainly far from the first choice. It's just not that good tasting.
I think, though, that almost every apple has it's place and use.
I try to keep that in mind as I have just started researching Southern heirlooms. I don't want to plant an apple I am disappointed with, for reasons not due to the apple, but because my expectations for it were beyond what the apple could do.
Hopefully that makes some sense. And thank you again for having these discussions. I learn so much.